About Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach (abbreviated IB), is the most southwesterly city in the continental United States and home to approximately 26,000 people. IB is ideally located on the Pacific Ocean to the west, the City of Coronado and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the north, community of Nestor to the east and Naval Auxiliary Landing Field and Tijuana Estuary to the south. Imperial Beach is less than 15 miles south of downtown San Diego.

The classic southern California town is best known for miles of uncrowded beaches, big surf, the IB Fishing Pier and unparalleled open space and wetlands teeming with wildlife. Residents and visitors enjoy swimming or surfing at the beach, a walking tour of public art, a nature walk and bird watching experience at the world-renowned Tijuana Estuary or simply relax and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Recently the Port of San Diego and the City of Imperial Beach created significant oceanfront improvements with the Pier Plaza redevelopment. At the center of the Plaza is the town’s signature public art piece called “Surf Henge” (pictured above) created by artist Malcolm Jones. Standing tall is four giant translucent acrylic surfboard arches, a representation of surfboards stuck in the sand. The surfboards are 16-20 feet high, weighing up to three quarters of a ton each. A crimson arch frames the artwork and displays the city’s proud name. The Plaza is surrounded by low concrete seawalls with the exquisite glass tile work called “illuminations” by artist Mary Lynn Dominguez.

Imperial Beach’s shoreline is rich in big wave surfing history. Just before World War II, pioneering surfers began surfing a spot named the “Slough” next to the mouth of the Tijuana River and located just south of Imperial Beach. The Slough was home to the then known biggest waves off the continental United States. The surfing spot grew in popularity with Southern California surfers and after the war the Slough became the testing ground for most mainlanders going on to bigger surf in the Hawaiian Islands. This big wave surfing history is explained in more detail on plaques placed next to ten benches resembling surfboards that are spread throughout the Pier Plaza. The Pier Plaza is a true outdoor surfing museum. Surfing remains a tradition among locals in Imperial Beach.

Residents and visitors have always been fascinated with and attached to Imperial Beach Piers. The first pier opened in 1909 and latter washed into the sea in the severe 1948 storm. In the first part of the 1960´s an extremely popular fishing pier was built then destroyed by heavy storms approximately 20 years later. In 1988 a third and current pier was constructed and opened to the public in 1989. The Imperial Beach Fishing Pier (pictured in background above) is a wooden structure that extends high above and beyond the surf break for a total of 1,853 feet. Let’s pray that future storms and high tides leave the Imperial Beach Landmark for residents and visitors to enjoy much longer than past models.

The sizeable National Wildlife Refuges that border Imperial Beach on north and south are a key stopover for migratory birds and the last haven for more endangered species than anywhere of similar size in the continental United States. The estuary to the south is 2,531 acres of tidal wetlands known as the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. This reserve is the largest saltwater marsh in Southern California. For more information and walking tours call the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center at (619) 575-3613 and located at 301 Caspian Way. The city is looking at ecotourism as a way to attract a steady stream of visitors interested in wildlife, migratory birds, coastal dunes, and a world renowned estuary. There are current plans for walking and bike trails, interpretive signage, and overlooks to take advantage of the region’s unique wildlife assets.

The military presence is heard and felt in southern part of the city. The Imperial Beach Naval Auxiliary Landing Field is currently a naval helicopter base. With a desirer to be close to work and live in a coastal community, military families have always considered Imperial Beach a favorite place to call home.